Explosive Arrow Ballista Elementalist


Gear Overview

The Explosive Arrow Ballista Elementalist is a great Allrounder Leaguestarter. It kills bosses with huge Ignites and clears whole screens of monsters with the Ignite Proliferation Support.

For how strong the build is, it does have some intricate mechanics, which means attention to detail matters!

This build doesn't require any Uniques or specific stats to start with but can upgrade to an absolute monster in the late game, making it perfect for a leaguestart-scenario.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Very Low

Skills Breakdown

Explosive Arrow

Explosive Arrow supported with Ballista Totem Support is our main damage dealer.
It applies Fuses that explode after a short duration. The more Fuses the enemy had, the more damage they take.
Firing this skill with Ballistas enables us to apply more fuses in a shorter time period, resulting in bigger Ignites overal.


Frenzy is a ranged attack that gives you Frenzy Charges. This stacking buff provides more damage and increased attack speed.


Our Auras compensate for the defensive shortcomings of the Elementalist and consists of:
1) Determination to reduce incoming Physical Damage.
2) Grace to grant a chance to avoid enemy attacks outright.
3) Defiance Banner to complement the Armour and Evasion stacking.
4) Precision for accuracy, if needed.

Arcanist Brand Setup

This is our main single target damage setup.
Linking skills with Arcanist Brand makes them be cast periodically while the Brand is on an enemy, automating skills and letting you focus on other things. The two skills we are supporting it with are Flammability, which reduces enemy Resistances and Flame Surge which drops a damaging Burning Ground under enemies hit by it.

Molten Shell

Molten Shell is an incredible defensive buff that gets stronger the more Armour you have.
Since Molten Shell has no cast-time, we can put it on our left-mouse button (move) and the buff is up whenever it's off Cooldown!
Later, you will get Vaal Molten Shell, which makes you almost invincible for 1-2 seconds after use.

Flame Dash

Flame Dash is our main Movement Skill, enabling us to instantly dodge dangerous enemy Attacks and Spells.
And well... it's a flamey dash, you'll like it!

Ascendancy Breakdown


The Elementalist is an easy choice for Explosive Arrow as it offers incredible boosts to Damage, Area of Effect and Defensive Capabilities.

  • Shaper of Flames allows ALL of your damage to Ignite, not just Fire Damage (this even includes Chaos Damage). Shaper of Flames also makes "Hits always Ignite", which means you don't need any Chance to Ignite at all.
  • Mastermind of Discord reduces Elemental Resistances of our enemies, making it a great tool against Bosses and highly resistant enemies.
  • Heart of Destruction gives you a huge Area of Effect Bonus while clearing hordes of monsters, converting the bonus to Damage instead whenever you face a Unique Enemy.
  • Bastion of Elements gives you a huge defensive layer against elemental damage, while also making it so your Ballistas' damage can't be reflected back to them.

To learn how the Labyrinth works, feel free to consult our Labyrinth Guide!


Ballistas are an acquired taste. Some players love them for their safe and less "involved" playstyle that lets you kill enemies while looting at the same time, while others need to deal Damage themselves to feel powerful.


While Mapping, your main objective is to place Ballistas that kill enemies for you while you are move and loot. Since Explosive Arrow has a short damage delay, use the Quartz Flask to phase through enemies while they die behind you half a second later.

Don't worry, with a decent lootfilter you always hear if something valuable dropped behind you. This playstyle ensures you maintain you clear speed and loot, even with the delayed Damage. Attack with Frenzy every 5-10 seconds to gain Frenzy Charges that refresh whenever you attack with it again.

Only put down your Lightning Spire Trap or your Arcanist Brand when there is a tanky rare or you are up against the map boss.


When dealing with Bosses, let your Explosive Arrow Ballistas do the work while you sit behind them and dodge dangerous boss mechanics. This is where Ballistas shine compared to builds that need to stand in place to do their damage, so use that advantage accordingly! Against bosses with phases, put down your Ballistas, the Arcanist Brand-setup and your Lightning Spire Trap BEFORE the boss spawns. Then keep your Frenzy Charges up while replacing Ballistas whenever they die or the boss moves out of range.

Build Scaling


We scale Explosive Arrow's Ignite, which is a Fire Damage over Time Ailment.

Every arrow you hit an enemy with applies a Fuse, in this case we use Ballistas to apply them.
After the first Fuse hits an enemy, you have a certain duration to apply more of them with your Ballistas.

After that duration expires, all Fuses combine and scale into a big explosion, resulting in a huge Ignite at the end. This means that increases to attack speed are critically important to apply Fuses faster.

Ballistas, like any other form of Totems, scale with YOUR stats and are NOT considered "minions".
Here is a list of the damage mods you are looking for:

  • Increased Attack Speed.
  • Increases to Elemental/Fire/Burning/Totem Damage as well as "Damage over Time" in general.
  • Fire Damage over Time Multiplier/Damage over Time Multiplier
  • Added Damage on your Bow or Gear (All damage types Ignite, not just Fire)
  • Additional Maximum Totems/Ballistas through Ancestral Bond, Panopticon, Watchtowers and Skirmish.

The Elementalist has access to strong mitigation against Elemental Damage. Physical Damage is their weakness and is adressed through Armour Scaling from gear, Auras and Flasks.

  • Armour from Determination and Defiance Banner, Granite Flask and Ironwood.
  • Evasion from Grace, Defiance Banner and Jade Flask.
  • Elemental Damage Shield from Bastion of Elements.
  • High Spell Suppression with endgame gear.
  • Capped Elemental Resistances at 75%.

The mixture of Armour Scaling to reduce incoming Physical Damage, Bastion of Elements to reduce incoming Elemental Damage, avoiding attacks with Evasion and reducing incoming Spell Damage by 50% with Spell Suppression gives the build a solid defensive web.

Being a Ballista Build in general means that you can deal damage while dodging enemy attacks/spells, resulting in a safer playstyle overall!

Key Build Infos

Elemental Equilibrium

Elemental Equilibrium is essential to this build and can be confusing, so lets break it down:
While having Elemental Equilibrium(EE), whenever one of your ballistas hit an enemy, you give it a debuff called Exposure.
This Exposure can be up to three types: Cold, Lightning and/or Fire. Exposure debuffs the enemy with -25% to those Resistances. It also enables Mastermind of Discord for a total of -50% Resistances.

The type of Exposure you apply depends on the damage type(s) you did NOT deal! For example: If your Ballista hits an enemy with Lightning but NOT Cold or Fire, that enemy gets "Cold and Fire Exposure". This gets overwritten whenever an enemy gets hit again. Our goal is to apply Fire Exposure, since that increases the damage of our Ignites drastically.

How we get Fire Exposure? Explosive Arrow has three parts to it's damage:

  1. The initial hit that applies the Fuse (no Fire Damage unless you add it with gear).
  2. The explosion that consumes all Fuses (has a ton of inherent Fire Damage).
  3. The Ignite afterwards that is caused by the explosion (Fire Damage that does not count as a "hit").

If you scale NO ADDED FIRE DAMAGE anywhere on your gear and instead get a small amount of either Cold or Lightning Damage, you can make it so our initial Fuse deals no Fire Damage, therefore applying Fire Exposure. The explosion that consumes the fuses is going to apply Fire Damage, but since we have 6 Ballistas firing away at all times, it gets overwritten immediately by the next Fuse. The Ignite afterwards does not conflict with Elemental Equilibrium since it's a Damage over Time effect and is therefore technically not a hit.

Mistakes to Avoid

1) Getting Added Fire Damage on Gear

This disables your Exposure caused by Elemental Equilibrium (explained above).
Remember that with Shaper of Flames, all damage Ignites, not just Fire Damage. This means Cold and Lightning Damage do the same thing as added Fire Damage without disabling Exposure!
While "added Fire Damage" is bad, "increased Fire Damage" is completely fine and a great stat to have to increase your Ignite Damage!

2) Having a Source of Pierce/Chain or Fork

Explosive Arrow only puts a Fuse onto the last enemy it hits.
If you, for example, have "Projectiles Pierce 1 additional Target" and are up against a boss, it pierces through that enemy and applies no Fuses whatsoever. This completely invalidates your build, so be careful!

3) Using Barrage Support

Barrage Support might seem good because it helps you apply your Fuses faster. However, we hit the Maximum Fuse Count of 20 easily without it, so using it more than halves our damage, for no gain.
Stick to the recommended Support Gems in the Skill Gem Section!

4) Ignoring Accuracy

Explosive Arrow kinda looks like a spell, but it's an attack and therefore adheres to Accuracy scaling. If you don't have enough Accuracy (98-100% recommended) your fuses are going to miss, resulting in smaller explosions and Ignites!

5) Using Slow Bows

Your Attack Rate is as critical as the damage of your Ignites.
Slow attacking Bows look good on paper, but are actually really bad due to their low Attack Rate. This is also why Storm Cloud is such a good choice early on!

Leveling Section by tytykiller

Key Leveling Notes

While this is a build guide for Explosive Arrow, we primarily use Holy Flame Totem and Flame Wall to level until 32. This is because 32 is the correct time to complete the Normal Labyrinth. Upon getting Shaper of Flames, switching over to using Explosive Arrow will be much easier.

This build will do Library in Act 3 to gain Explosive Arrow, Ballista Totem Support, Determination, Grace, and Purity of Elements. These gems won't be used for now, but are instead put in your gear to level up. Gems gain XP even in your off-hand!

The "Wand Craft" is the easiest way to make any caster leveling better. Selling a magic wand, an Orb of Alteration, and a normal Topaz Ring produces a wand like this: Snapping Driftwood Wand.

If you need a magic wand, purchase a 3-linked Wand from Nessa with favorable colors, those being Blue-Blue-Green, Blue-Blue-Blue, or Blue-Green-Red. Then use an Orb of Transmutation on it. If you need a Topaz Ring, you can sell an Iron Ring with any Skill Gem that is colored Green.

Note: Selling rare items identified they will give you Alteration Shards, while selling them unidentified gives Transmutation Shards.

Since this build switches over to Explosive Arrow at level 32, it is critical to identify rare bows along the way. Stats to look for are + To Level of Socketed Bow Gems, +% Attack Speed, or Elemental Damage with Attacks. The best early bow is a Storm Cloud, which can be bought from other players.

Campaign Step By Step

Beginner players should follow Enki's Campaign Progression guide.

The levels listed below are based on speedrunning. Always be greater or equal to the levels listed.

Step-By-Step Explosive Arrow Skill Gem Progression
Open leveling skill tree in new tab

Mapping Preparation

You're done with the Campaign and are ready to take on Path of Exile's Endgame. Priority 1 is capping your Elemental Resistances (75%) and having sufficient Attributes to continue leveling your Skill Gems. Use Essences you have gathered on any item that is not Magic or Rare already. Items with an open modifier slot can be crafted on. Head to the Crafting Bench and craft Resistances you need and Life wherever else possible.

Map Modifiers

Avoid (or cautiously run) the following modifiers:

  • Avoid Chance to avoid Elemental Ailments because you can't Ignite frequently enough!
  • Take care of -% to maximum Resistances because you then get destroyed by Elemental Damage!
  • Avoid Reduced Effect of Auras because it will reduce your Armour and Evasion, making you vulnerable to attacks!

Recommended Farming Content

The first step is to progress through the Atlas following our Atlas Progression Guide. As an allrounder character, you can do most content in the game. However, If you're struggling in higher tier content, step back and farm up more Currency and Gear. To learn how to maximize currency with all the different League Mechanics, click the links below:


Pantheon Planner

For Information on how to unlock your Pantheon, consult our Pantheon Guide!

For the Major Pantheon select Brine King to gain Immunity to Freeze and the Reduction of Chill Effect. This bonus is not baseline and needs to be acquired with a Divine Vessel.

For Minor Pantheon, select Abberath and upgrade it. This grants you defences but more importantly Immunity to Burning Ground.

Skill Gems

Use Slider to see Skill Progression

Gems are a fundamental part of your build. Getting the correct link setups before entering Maps and leveling those Gems as you progress through the Atlas is one of your main goals. This is how your Gem setup should look like before entering Maps:

Explosive Arrow Setup
Explosive Arrow supported by Ballista Totem Support is our main damage dealer. We add Faster Attacks Support to apply fuses faster and Ignite Proliferation Support to improve clearspeed.
Once you have a fifth link, add Deadly Ailments Support and as a 6th link add Elemental Damage with Attacks Support.
Once you are at endgame and you have Divine Orbs to buy better gear, replace Deadly Ailments Support with the better Awakened Deadly Ailments Support and Elemental Damage with Attacks Support with Awakened Burning Damage Support.

Arcanist Brand Setup
Arcanist Brand triggers supported skills on enemies it is attached to.
One of the skills you trigger is Flame Surge, which applies a Burning Ground that deals damage to enemies standing on it.
The other skill is your main curse: Flammability, which reduces enemy Fire Resistances, which is especially important against Bosses and tanky rares.

Aura Setup
Your 3 main Auras are used to increase your defensive capabilities.
First, Determination grants you a huge amount of Armour, which reduces incoming Physical Damage significantly. On top of that, you use Grace which grants a chance to evade enemy attacks outright.

These Auras are supplemented by Defiance Banner which increases both Armour and Evasion further. Don't think too much about putting your banner down, it's mostly there for the passive bonus it gives.
On top of the defensive Auras, you also have Precision, which increases your Accuracy substantially. This solves one of your weaknesses, since you are a Bow Build starting in the Witch area.
The amount of Reservation Precision takes depends on its level, so always check if you can support leveling it up before!

Combustion Trigger
Lightning Spire Traps only purpose is hitting enemies to apply the Combustion Support debuff. Because of Ancestral Bond, you don't deal damage yourself, therefore you are unable to Ignite an enemy and apply Combustion Support. To circumvent that, use a Trap because it still deals damage.

Movement Skill
Use Flame Dash as your main Movement Skill. No Support Gems are needed.

Whenever you hit an enemy with Frenzy, you gain a Frenzy Charge, which gives you more Damage and increased Attack Speed. To refresh them during boss fights you need to land an attack periodically. Faster Attacks Support is only there to make the skill feel smoother.

Vaal Molten Shell
Molten Shell gives you a defensive shield that can absorb enemy damage depending on how much Armour you have. Since Molten Shell has no cast-time, put it on your left-mouse button(move) to automatically activate it whenever the cooldown is up. Vaal Molten Shell is something you only press whenever you are in danger. It makes you almost invincible whenever it is active.

Lightning Golem
Summon Lightning Golem increases your Attack Speed slightly. It's not important for the build but it's better than nothing. If you are starved for sockets, this is the gem to cut first.

Skill Tree Progression

Passive Skill Tree Progression

Cluster Jewel Setup:

Cluster Jewels are items you can insert into the outer Jewel Sockets of your Passive Tree. They extend the Passive Tree with extra Nodes, giving you extra customization options for your build!

For this build specifically, you want a 8 Passive (9 for budget) Large Cluster Jewel with either % Fire Damage or % Elemental Damage. On top of that, you want a 4/5 Passive Medium Cluster Jewel, with % Totem Damage.

For more information on what Cluster Jewels to get, check out the Milestones down below!

Cluster Jewel Setup

Character Progression

The Item Progression in Path of Exile is not as rigid as in most other games. Unique Items can provide easy upgrades early, but overall your gear mostly consist of Rare Items. This means that flexibility is key. The game won't always give you exactly the item you are looking for, so you need to adapt. Even if small upgrades seem insignificant, the sum of them decides whether your character fails or succeeds.

If you want full context to everything, watch my fully detailed Video Guide on Youtube as well. It is linked at the end of the article! You can also check out my stream on and ask me questions or simply hang out!

To make itemization less confusing, there are no Resistances on Rare Items anywhere. You can get them wherever you want and they do not have to be on specific items. Resistances are incredibly important though, DO NOT forget about them when choosing which items to craft or buy! Make sure to check your Reistances in your Character Sheet (C, Defense Tab) whenever you switch your gear around.

Video Guide


  • Explosive Arrow Ballista is an incredible Allrounder Build that can take you through everything Path of Exile has to offer.
  • You place Ballistas, which are small turrets that shoot and do damage for you, unleashing huge Ignites in the process.
  • This playstyle allows you to dodge enemy attacks and deal damage at the same time.
  • This build rewards players who care about small upgrades and attention to detail, since there are certain pitfalls you can succumb to. If you overcome those hurdles, you will have an incredibly strong build.


Written by Palsteron.
Reviewed by Raxxanterax.


Jul 30th 2022
Build Guide Created.